A planned extension to Shrewsbury’s Longden Road Cemetery will include an area of land for up to 41 graves set aside for Islamic burials and aligned with Mecca.
Shropshire Council’s bereavement services manager, Mark Foxall, says the location, where areas are already set aside for Christian, Catholic, Romany and nonconformist burials, has been agreed by community leaders.
A report by Mr Foxall, published ahead of a scrutiny committee meeting, says: “The committee will be aware that for many years Shropshire’s Muslim community has been petitioning for dedicated burial space that meets their faith requirements, specifically in terms of the orientation of graves.
“This has been a particular issue in south Shropshire although there is a lack of provision throughout the county.
“Landscaping changes made at Longden Road Cemetery has created new space to provide for 41 graves orientated as required.
“Constructive consultation and site meetings took place with the Church of England Diocese of Lichfield and Muslim community leaders to agree arrangements for this provision.”
Mr Foxall’s report says the areas of land known as extensions 27 and 28 to the cemetery have been brought into use since he last reported to the committee two years ago.
The next two phases, extensions 29 and 30, are yet to be utilised.
The report adds: “Space exists for 41 graves for the Muslim faith community in extension 30, plus 18 graves orientated conventionally, sold at the point of need.
“There is an understanding that other faiths or those of no faith might need to also be buried in this section, depending on the availability of space.”
Mr Foxall’s report will be discussed by the council’s communities overview committee at a meeting on January 25.
It also sets out where more grave space will be needed to meet future demand, including a new cemetery to be created in Shrewsbury.
The report says that as well as the extensions at Longden Road, expansions at Church Pulverbatch and Minsterley cemeteries are also “in progress”.
It adds: “The search continues to identify a new site to develop as a cemetery to serve Shrewsbury’s long-term need.
“A number of potential sites already within the council’s estate have been considered for development as a cemetery over the last year or so, two sites have merited further investigation, one on the northern fringe of Shrewsbury and one east of the town and east of the A49, neither site displayed great prospect.
“Site options within the council’s current estate are limited meaning it may become necessary to acquire a site, this will require capital monies for both the acquisition and development.
“The primary concern is to identify a site with the right environmental credentials.”
The report also reveals how the council moved swiftly to collate data on available graveyard space and resources across the county in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
It says: “In the early weeks of the Covid-19 pandemic, bereavement services initiated significant contact with partner councils, the Diocesan Offices of the Church of England covering Shropshire and various contractors.
“The result has created a useful contact list and inventory of who has what equipment and resource, aim being to facilitate the pooling of such resource in times of significant need.
“It is apparent that provision of the county’s bereavement service would benefit from a combined, collective overview due to the small resource active in the sector and our large and mainly rural county.”